It’s almost 2013, yo!

14

December 31, 2012

Greetings from our kitchen, the best photography studio in town! *tiny cough*

Well, for the 3rd year in a row, we didn’t send out any holiday cards. Actually I’m trying to figure out if we’ve EVER sent out any holiday cards. I think we did when Julia was age 1 and age 2. After that, we threw in the towel. I started saying Happy New Year on Facebook. And then I moved to saying Happy New Year on the blog. AND HERE WE ARE.

I have so many lovely holiday cards adorning my mantel mirror right now. And I feel so lame that we are not more together with our card sending capabilities. But...I have this here space, see? And I can put photos on it and write words (sometimes) and let’s PRETEND THAT THIS IS A CARD!

Pretending is awesome. Also, it seems likely that if I ever do send out real cards that one can actually hold, they won't be Christmas cards because I'll never have it together enough to be timely. And organized. But I feel like the perfect holiday card for me to attempt is the New Year's card. It can arrive any time in December, before or after Christmas, or any time in January and it will still be ok. I like that kind of latitude.

Also, I have noticed that a great many of my friends who DO have it together, send out a little year-end note, summarizing major events and happenings that occurred in their families. I actually really like those letters, because I am such a busy-body. There's really no place I'd rather be than all up in someone's grill. Did that come out terribly, terribly wrong? Whatever you're thinking, I didn't mean it that way. I'm not even sure what I was meaning, except to be ridiculous. I just like to know people's business, which is why I like blogs. Moving on.

So the letter thingy! Andrew and I were realizing that any letter we could possibly send out would be SO TREMENDOUSLY BORING, because we don't do anything. We were telling his mom about how dumb a letter from us would be and then she said, 'well now I'm thinking that you guys should totally do one!' (I added the 'totally'.)

So now it's like, a challenge. To make our really boring lives sound remotely interesting.

Um so yes. Julia graduated from Kindergarten this past year and that was awesome. She's lost five teeth. And what else. Uh, we're apparently living through the teen years right now, even though she is 6. She went through a 'Brave' obsession, followed by a 'Hotel Transylvania' obsession. Not sure what's she's obsessed with right now, other than being a teeny tiny future musical theater diva, major.

She just told me this evening before I sat down to write this little ditty, that for her birthday this year, she wanted 'an intimate gathering' of friends. I then had to put my napkin over my face so I wouldn't snort my food all over the table from laughing through my nose. I need to put a stop to all the 'Phineas & Ferb' viewing, which is where that phrase came from, Andrew is pretty sure. She likes to do the Egyptian Chicken Dance a lot. I'll try and get it on video sometime.

Me? According to Andrew, I am totally addicted to Pinterest and blogging and playing with filters to put on my pictures. Andrew and I fought a lot about whether we were going to watch 'Vampire Diaries' or 'Supernatural' first on any given particular evening. I took a lot of pictures of books and my kid.

Our she-devil of a cat ate at least FIVE OF MY SWEATERS. I want you to look REAL CLOSE at her face. That, friends, is the face of pure malevolence.

Hey Andrew! What did you do this past year?

"*bleep* if I know. Nothing. Sat around working all *#@!$& day, every day."

Did you read any good books?

"I don't know. I'm too tired to remember."

Annnnnnd....Happy New Year everyone! Now you know why we don't send out holiday letters.




Holiday Lights of PURE FANTASTIC

23

December 27, 2012

_DSC0121_DSC0124_DSC0128_DSC0137_DSC0131_DSC0129 (2)I start to feel weird when I’ve been away from the blog for too long. Isn’t THAT weird? I couldn’t stay away for a whole week! Here’s more lights from that crazy Christmas house I talked about in my last Cool Stuff post. And here’s Yoda again. Because this picture warrants repeating, like, forever.

WHAZZUP???

Andrew and I got Season 1 of ‘Homeland’ for Christmas from my ma. OMG. I see what the hype is about. Did you know that I’ve had a Damian Lewis obsession since way back in the day? Back from ‘Forsyte Saga’ days? I was ahead of the curve yo! Actually the people who liked him in 'Band of Brothers' were ahead of the curve. I missed that whole series, boo. I think he is the radicalest.

Can't wait to show you the haul of books we got for Christmas! I'm going to this place to go find some mince pies. It's not a proper holiday without mince pies. I have this bizarre need to feel Very British Indeed at Christmastime. (in addition to the bizarre need I have to feel British during the rest of the year.)




Merry Christmas!

8

December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas! Be well, be safe, and kiss your loved ones all over until they laugh and squeal.

"My favorite part of Christmas is collecting ornaments, giving presents and reading Christmas books. And what I love with all my heart is eating Christmas cookies."
                                                                                                     ~Julia

See you first week in January! xoxo




Cool Stuff I Like

11

December 21, 2012

HEY WE'RE ALL STILL HERE! Silly Mayans.

Also, Yoda wants you to know he is the Master of the Force even when wearing a Santa hat and an angel robe and standing in this radical Christmas tree. There is a house we go look at every year that has truly reached epic levels of Christmas light SUPERSTAH!ness. I think they want to be on the news. They probably have already been on the news. These people have INFLATABLES. They have their own radio station that plays holiday music as you look at their house, and a special drive through driveway. What's amazing is that they are not content to rest on their laurels. Oh no. Every year they DO MORE. I think soon they will have an acre's size of lights set up. They start right after Halloween, getting it all ready! I think Yoda is new this year.


COOL STUFF to celebrate light and beauty....

NEW MIYAZAKI MOVIE???? About the Moon Princess Kaguya-Hime? (one of my favorite stories!)

The most beautiful ornaments I have ever ever seen EVER.

Check out my friend Danzel's Great Big Nutcracker post!

You must see this site. Like something out of a dream.

Chocolate Chip Nutella Candy Cane Cookies.

Happy Home.

A lovely ode to teachers from my friend Vanessa.

Children's Christmas Cake.

Jam-Filled Cream Cheese Cookies. (I've made them and they are amazing.)

Love this star map.


Cool Book of the Week:  'A Coyote Solstice Tale' by Thomas King and Gary Clement. Just got this hilarious little jolly from the library and I thought WOW I AM A GENIUS, because it's like, THE SOLSTICE. And by genius, I mean, I just happened upon this book and I'm actually not a genius, but wasn't that cosmic that I found this here book? I wasn't even looking for solstice books! Anyhoo, it's super cute. The rundown is that a little girl befriends Coyote and his merry band of forest animals as they are celebrating the solstice and decides to take them to...the mall, to go shopping. Coyote thinks this is all the bees knees until he realizes one has to PAY for the things you get at the mall. He also wonders if one can buy cheer and goodwill. (well if it comes in a bottle.......I'm sorry, I think my mind just went to an inappropriate place...)


Have a lovely weekend friends ~ I have a couple of Merry Christmas posts lined up and ready to go for next week, but then I'll be doing something I haven't done in nearly 2 years of blogging -- taking the rest of the week off. Andrew and I will be ringing in the New Year the same way we always do, taking in the 'Twilight Zone' marathon and making some kind of food from a far-flung and foreign locale that we've never made before, its become our little tradition.

~Melissa




Winter Wedding

20

December 20, 2012

You can tell a lot about my relationship with my husband from these photos. Especially that last photo. That's pretty much our relationship, right there. Me yapping about something random, and Andrew's like, 'What are you TALKING about??'  And I'm like, No you seriously need to listen to whatever this random thing that I'm saying. Was that even English just now? I just made every writing professor I ever had tremendously sad. Andrew and I got married 8 years ago, and it was a Christmasy wedding. When we look at wedding pix now, we start yelling, 'WE LOOKED SO YOUNG!!!'. 





Homelife

15

December 19, 2012

Pretty mellow stuff around here. The calm before the Christmas storm. I'm telling you, this is why the week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite time. After the past week's tragic happenings, all I care about is watching my daughter be happy at Christmas. The perfect meal, gifts or table setting, gah who cares.  My Christmas wish is that this country really knuckles down and takes steps to protect our children.

There have been warm things on the stove. (one of my bestest recipes that I'll share when I have time to write the whole thing down ~ it's perfect comfort food for January. Don't you want to know what it is? I'll tell you in January. (or you might just be sitting there going, I don't give a flip what's in your pot Melissa.)

I discovered that black bean soup does wonders for my digestive system. I'll let you ferret out what exactly I mean by that. I'm full of mystery today. I also doing my best side face photography. I'm getting tired of side-face-in-the-kitchen shots, but it's the best light in the house and the only way I can snap myself without looking drunk and/or possessed.

I discovered the easiest and cutest treat on Pinterest -- take powdered doughnuts, stick a candy corn in the middle for a nose, use black icing for the eyes and you have yourself a cute snowman! Speaking of cute, did anyone manage to get hold of the 'Cookie Snitcher' book I mentioned a couple weeks ago? It is so adorable. And kind of weird. The snitcher has feathers on his...bottom area, no idea why.

Julia and Sally. Julia is not sad in this pic, she is deep in thought playing a little video game. Sally IS very sad indeed, because I took the socks she was wanting to chew on away from her. Did you know that I'm on House Sweater #3 now? Someday I'll get it together to photograph all of her destruction into a nice collage for you all. 

Picked a up a couple of new felt ornaments. Andrew's cousin can make stuff like this. I should learn how to do something along these lines, I think it would be really fun to be able to make cute ornaments myself. I got them on sale, I was so thrilled, all the Christmas deco stuff is going on sale. I chose the lady squirrel in her posh skating outfit and Julia chose the very handsome skunk man. Cutest ornaments I've seen in years and I found them at a Seattle garden center.





Rocking Horse Land

14

December 18, 2012

Hi sweet friends. I have something very lovely to show you today. A book full of magic and toys and dollies and fairies, and all the things that should be in childhood. And the illustrations...if you blew them up and had them framed on your kiddo's wall, everyone would think 'What a marvelous painting!' The art is More Than Art. Do you know what I mean? The kind of art that looks like it came straight out of some enchanted realm.

I've been saving 'Rocking Horse Land and other Classic Tales of Dolls and Toys' (compiled by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Angela Barrett) for a good six months for Julia. As amazing as it is, I think I might hold onto it hidden away for another 6 months because I really really want her to appreciate it and be ready for it. Depending on your kiddo, a 6 year old would enjoy it, and all the way on up to age 10-11. The 'Baba Yaga' story and the 'Rag Bag' story certainly would appeal to younger readers, while 'Memoirs of a London Doll' and 'The Town in the Library' (written by British great E. Nesbit) are best suited for ages 7 and up.

Do you guys love Baba Yaga? I was kind of obsessed with her when I was young. Something about her house, walking around on chicken legs, while Baba Yaga flies around in her mortar and pestle bowl. She's a fixture in a great many Russian fairy tales.

The six stories in the book (including 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier') are all winners. This is a treasure book, a magical book, a give-to-someone-special-book. 

I personally love the idea of dolls coming alive and Doing Interesting Things. That idea always intrigued me as a little girl, and it still does, to be truthful.

Here's another great favorite book about magical dolls. Also, this one. And 'Big Susan' is not to be missed.





No Title

25

December 17, 2012



I couldn't think of a title for today. If this isn't the $#@!&* bottom of the barrel of an occurrence for our country, I don't know what is.

This is my 4th attempt at a post.

The others were full of anger, because I feel very full of anger. I've written things in anger in the past that did not end well for me, so I'm trying to learn from that mistake.

After reading what I wrote a few times...I just was like, oh screw it. There's no point to this. People don't really need to be reading about my anger right now. I kept deleting paragraph after paragraph.

It is unimaginable what happened to these children, these small kids who were only a few years away from their toddler years...and yet it happened. It would have been equally horrifying to have had this happen to any other group of kids, but that it happened to the the littlest ones among us....I don't think anyone's stomach will unclench about this, ever.

For those who suffered ~ I am so sorry. I think a new word for 'sorry' needs to be invented for what we feel for those families, because sorry just doesn't seem to cut it. Seems so lackluster. I think we're all feeling more than sorrow.

The image of a teacher reading to her class to calm them keeps running through my head like a ticker tape.
For all of us, Is this how it is now? Fear over the basic act of sending one's child to school? Fear of going out and seeing a film, or buying some shoes?  One could say, 'I choose to live without fear', but you know what, that's not me. I was already living in fear because I have massive anxiety. I know statistics lend themselves more towards safety than towards catastrophic events like these, but I worry. I fear.

Don't we need to do something? What can we do?

I so wish I knew what that was.

I thought that after this, I was going to shut down the blog. Was I really going to keep prattling on about my cats or what show I watched on TV? But I do love sharing the books I find for children with you, so I guess I'll keep going.

I listened to my daughter sing 'Jingle Bells' the other day and I don't know if it made me happier or more sad. Because every parent should be able to hear their child sing 'Jingle Bells' at this time of year. Or sing anything at all. I look into my daughter's eyes, and I just wonder what I can do to make her world a better and safer place.

Going to stop talking now. All I've said here is a whole lot of Not Very Much. But I couldn't just stay silent and show a book today. This guy was able to get his point across without all the yelling I want to do.

xoxo




Cool Stuff I Like

9

December 14, 2012

I guess technically, I have three trees this year. Does this little guy up on the mantel count? I added more snowflakes on him. I guess this tree is now a 'him'. I'm going into cooking mode. I've been trying to wrap as presents materialize, so that I'm not left with it to do right at the end ~ although that's kind of fun, to wrap them all in one fell swoop, while watching something holidayish. Or even non-holidayish. A couple of years ago at this time is when I got sucked into watching 'The Vampire Diaries', because there was a marathon of the first season going on, and I got hooked. Switching gears: I have a problem. NO idea what to get for my mother. Or my father. They are IMPOSSIBLE to shop for. Neither one of them drinks tea. So my go-to gifts are out. Which is why I usually just give them pictures of Julia. My step-dad is easy, he likes any kind of treat. What do you guys get for your folks??


COOL STUFF, lots of treats!

Meyer Lemon Snowball Cookies.

Love this Winter Stamp Set.

Washi Tape Ornaments. (I can't believe how easy and cute these are!)

Christmas Candies & Cookies.

Just found a vintage recipes blog!!

'Ruby Red'. 'Sapphire Blue'. My new YA fun reads. I bought the sequel, that's how much I liked these books, after reading the first one from the library. But now I have to wait for the last book in the series! grrrr.

Eggnog Cake with PINK MARSHMALLOW FROSTING.

Glitter candles.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.

Powerful Princesses for Boys.

DIY Christmas lights.

This ham and cheese tart is fantastic, I've made it several times! (and prolly linked it in a Cool Stuff post already and forgot)


Cool Book of the Week:  My friend Katy (she's the clever lady behind these dolls, and you can also see her writing here) just told me about 'Finding Christmas' by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson. She said it was BEAUTIFUL and made her tear up in the store where she saw it! I hopped over to my best friend Amazon to take a peek and it does indeed look lovely, several pages of it are available for preview viewing. A little girl is searching, searching for the perfect gift for her baby brother, without success, until some assistance from Santa comes her way....




Have a LOVELY weekend! We'll be gingerbread-house-making! Andrew's family has a massive house making session. You can see last year's party here. And gingerbread cake making. And eating. Seems silly to make and not eat.

~Melissa

(Image credit of 'Finding Christmas': ebay.com)




The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

27

December 13, 2012

_DSC0005HAPPY ST. LUCIA DAY!!!!!!!! I have NO idea what St. Lucia Day is!!!! Which is why instead I have deemed this day Happy Scandinavian Holiday Fun Day!!!!

Really. I know nothing about St. Lucia day, other than it’s a holiday tradition in Sweden where special pastry buns are consumed and when young ladies wear green garland crowns on their heads that have candles in them. Which sounds like quite a fire hazard. But I understand there are battery operated candles now? But what about back in the day? You were walking around with flames on your head? AWESOME!

Apartment Therapy has kindly already done a post telling us more about St. Lucia Day.

But as I like to shout every so often, I have a strong, secret, Inner Scandinavian Person living within me. I love everything Scandi. Especially MOOMINS. And Astrid Lindgren. And TOMTES.

So I was thrilled as punch when I saw that darling darling Heather from Audrey Eclectic was hosting a blog party of sorts, celebrating St. Lucia Day! You must hop on over as soon as you’re done here, to see her post and what the other participating blogs have planned. I wanted to have some Scandi fun too, so I thought now was the perfect time to discuss ‘The Great Scandinavian Baking Book’ by Beatrice Ojakangas, and show you all the most divine Scandinavian treat!

_DSC0021One thing you should know about Scandinavian baking. Actually two things. ALMONDS. And CARDAMOM. Scandi folks use cardamom the way Americans use cinnamon.

_DSC0017Another thing you should know about Scandinavian baking is that there are millions upon gazillions of holiday Christmas treats.

_DSC0009I just could not decide what the heck to make, everything in this book looks so entrancing. But I wanted something that looked relatively easy-ish for the blog, plus I was nervous about messing up a recipe right before the St. Lucia blog party!

I chose a Norwegian recipe, called Tosca Squares.

Imagine a lemon bar. Now take away the lemon and add almond filling instead, with an almond/butter/sugar glaze on top.

My first words upon trying one, after they were done:

"OMG."

Andrew wanted to know how many he could eat at one go, without getting into trouble.

_DSC0010There is an incredible amount of butter used. More than what you see here. It’s OK. When you taste these, you’ll realize how incredibly OK it is.

_DSC0022You start by making a shortbready crust. You don’t roll it out, you smoosh and spread it into the pan. You may be worried like I was about getting it nicely into the pan. Don’t worry. Just smoosh and spread, it doesn’t have to look pretty, no one will see.

_DSC0023You partially bake the shortbread crust and then make the almond filling and pour it on top. Then bake again.

_DSC0024After the shortbread and the almond filling have baked together, you make the almond glaze that goes on the tippy top. This comes together very quickly, so wait until your cake is actually out of the oven, and then make the glaze and pour it over the top.

PicMon1Lovely and shiny, yes?

_DSC0033_DSC0034_DSC0036Here you can see the layers ~ the crust, the squidgy middle layer (such a Nigella word!) and the gooey topping. (it's gooey warm out of the oven, but the topping will harden into a nice, smooth glaze as it cools.)

OH FRIENDS!! It was better than I hoped it would be. It’s MARVELOUS. You must try it. It’s better than awesome. I don’t even have a word for what that could be.

NORWEGIAN TOSCA SQUARES

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients:
1/3 cup butter (5 1/2 tablespoons), room temp
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup all purpose flour

Filling:
2/3 cup blanched almonds (I just used about a 1/2 cup almond meal ready prepared)
5 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white

Icing:
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Directions:
Lightly butter a 9" inch square baking pan or a 7" 1/2 x 11 inch pan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until smooth. Blend in the egg yolk and flour until dough forms. (Mine stayed crumbly, and I just gathered it together and smooshed into a cohesive dough ball) Press into the baking pan evenly and build up the edges about 1/2 inch. Bake 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulverize the almonds in the food processor (or just use almond meal like I did) or in a food chopper. Blend almonds with the butter and sugar. Beat the egg and egg white until fluffy (I just did it for about 4 minutes) and fold into the butter and almond mixture. Pour into the partially baked crust.

Bake 10-15 minutes until the filling is set. (I did 15 min.)
To make the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, almonds, flour, and milk. Heat, stirring until thickened. Simmer 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat. Spread mixture over the baked cake. Cool and cut into squares.

~ from 'The Great Scandinavian Baking Book'

SO GOOD, you guys! This needs to be in your holiday lineup of treats. I've never had a treat like this before and I have so many other recipes from this book earmarked to make this holiday season. I think I'm going to have to exercise A LOT in the coming weeks.....




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